Delayed celebration marks parish’s 150 years

Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre, right, prayed at the start of a liturgy to commemorate St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi Church’s 150th anniversary May 18 in Payneville, Ky. Concelebrating were, from left, Father Bob Ray, parish pastor Father George Illikkal and Father J. Ronald Knott. Deacon Greg Beavin, second from right, and, Deacon Dean Sears, not pictured, assisted. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

PAYNEVILLE, Ky. — More than 150 years ago, those who built St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi Church — a modest-sized red-brick building located on state highway 376 in Meade County — must have felt as unprepared to build a church as the disciples did on that first Pentecost, said Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre.

He celebrated a special anniversary liturgy May 18, the eve of Pentecost, at the parish in Payneville, Ky., — a celebration delayed by the pandemic. St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi reached its 150th milestone in 2022 amid COVID-19. 

During his homily, the archbishop asked members of the congregation to place themselves in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost. The disciples huddled with the Blessed Virgin Mary must have been afraid and wondering how they’d fulfill the mission Jesus left them; they could have easily given up, the archbishop said. 

“Your ancestors knew that same feeling when they decided, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to establish this parish church, breaking off from St. Theresa and calling this their spiritual home,” he said.

Margaret Mullins prayed with her son Cole Mullins, center, and her grandson Colton Mullins. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi parish was established in 1872 and a wood frame building was constructed that year on two acres of land purchased for $30 in 1871. The church grew out of St. Theresa Church in Rhodelia, Ky., and Holy Guardian Angel Church in Mount Merino, Ky. Father Jule Pierre Roaux, St. Theresa’s pastor newly arrived from France, was charged with developing the new parish. 

The parish has approximately 500 parishioners, many of whom are related, and some have been members for more than seven decades.

Margaret Mullins, a parishioner, said the 150th anniversary is an occasion for her to reflect on the fact that she’s “half as old as the church,” she said. Mullins lives across the street from the church and has walked to Mass all her life. 

The family feel of the parish has kept her a faithful member, she said. 

“Everybody’s kin to everybody,” she noted during an interview before the liturgy.

Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre accepted the gifts. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Archbishop Fabre told the congregation that sin often causes individuals to fall short of what Christ calls them to. The truth remains, however, that nothing can “disqualify” anyone from doing the one thing God wants: for each to do his best.

“God is not asking us to be perfect. God is not asking us to do the impossible. God is asking us to do what we can,” he said. “That is what your ancestors in faith realized when they established this parish. That if they did, to the best of their ability, what they felt God was calling them to do, God would take care of the rest. The Lord would help them.”

The church built by those ancestors became a spiritual home and stood for more than six decades. A fire in March of 1936 destroyed that building. Over the next year, determined parishioners built the current brick structure, and in March of 1937, it was blessed by Bishop John A. Floersh.

Among those who attended the anniversary celebration were Margaret Mullins’ cousins, Peggy Pollack Greenwell and Linda Greenwell and her husband Robert Greenwell — all members of the parish for more than 70 years.

As life-long parishioners, they are the guardians of many memories and stories. Pollack Greenwell shared that her mother-in-law, told stories about growing up at St. Mary Magdalen at the time when people spent all day at church on Sunday. They would place heated bricks in the wagon to keep the children’s feet warm, load up the picnic food and travel to church by horse and wagon. 

In attendance, too, was Leon Pike, who at 68 years old is also a lifelong parishioner. 

Parishioners sang the opening hymn during a liturgy to commemorate St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi Church’s 150th anniversary May 18 in Payneville, Ky. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

“Faith and family” has kept Pike at the parish all these years, he said. He noted there are about seven families — including the Hardestys, Facklers, Greenwells, Mattinglys, Pikes, Barrs and Clarks — who have been there for generations.     

Parishioners say the parish is a mainstay of the community. Pike said the church’s picnic, going on since 1932, draws individuals from every walk of life and faith tradition. 

“We’re welcoming,” he said. 

Mullins noted the parish does outreach to the wider community, particularly with food baskets at Thanksgiving and Christmas and providing poinsettias to shut-ins.

The archbishop concluded by saying what got the apostles moving was the same thing that helped St. Mary Magdalen’s founders — the Holy Spirit. 

“All the apostles did was open themselves to the grace and power of the Holy Spirit. All your ancestors did was open themselves to the grace and power of the Holy Spirit,” he said. “Wonderful things come about” when individuals put their efforts together

Ruby Thomas
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Ruby Thomas
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